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Friday, January 13, 2012

Genetic Testing: Scientific Background for Policymakers

Amanda K. Sarata
Specialist in Health Policy

Congress has considered, at various points in time, numerous pieces of legislation that relate to genetic and genomic technology and testing. These include bills addressing genetic discrimination in health insurance and employment; personalized medicine; the patenting of genetic material; and the quality of clinical laboratory tests, including genetic tests. The focus on these issues signals the growing importance of the public policy issues surrounding the clinical and public health implications of new genetic technology. As genetic technologies proliferate and are increasingly used to guide clinical treatment, these public policy issues are likely to continue to garner considerable attention. Understanding the basic scientific concepts underlying genetics and genetic testing may help facilitate the development of more effective public policy in this area.

Most diseases have a genetic component. Some diseases, such as Huntington’s Disease, are caused by a specific gene. Other diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, are caused by a complex combination of genetic and environmental factors. For this reason, the public health burden of genetic disease is substantial, as is its clinical significance. Experts note that society has recently entered a transition period in which specific genetic knowledge is becoming critical to the delivery of effective health care for everyone. Therefore, the value of and role for genetic testing in clinical medicine is likely to increase significantly in the future.

Date of Report: December
19, 2011
Number of Pages:
Order Number: RL3
Price: $29.95

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